Tom Weissmiller, who I have the honor to endorse for San Mateo Central Committee (SMGOP), and I wrote the below information concerning Local Taxes and Bond concerns for San Mateo County. Tom has a valid concern. We have a one party system in San Mateo County and almost every tax and bond is passed in San Mateo. There is no opposition. Opposition results in better transparency and better use of funds.

There is no organized “watchdog” tax group specifically for San Mateo County.

PROBLEMS

  1. There is not an organized taxpayers association in San Mateo County.
  2. Almost every tax and bond measure passes in San Mateo County without a fair review.
  3. The oversight boards do not include persons that can fully scrutinize and evaluate the performance of taxes and bonds. Typically they are a rubber stamp group.

QUESTIONS

Are they passing because our services are underfunded, the cost is justified, and it is for the good of our community or is it because the city councils, school boards, and special districts are doing it because they can?

Are the current funding streams adequate?

  1. Why do schools need more money when 52-55% of State General Fund goes to K-12 education?  (See questions 7 & 8)
  2. What is happening with the lottery money?  Enter the school district to see how much it is receiving.
  3. What is happening with the county property taxes that is spread to the various cities, schools and special districts? The county is receiving a bumper crop in property taxes with rising property tax values.
  4. How do we get people on the oversight boards that know who to scrutinize a budget?

Are taxes and bonds measured? If so how?

BACKGROUND

Many of the taxes have a sunset clause, 10 or 20 years. Typically renewals will be put on the ballot two or three years prior to expiration. This allows for a couple of tries if the first attempt fails. An example of this is the San Mateo Foster City School District had a measure in 2014 that failed. It was reintroduced and passed by the voters in 2015.

Below is a list of local measures that will be voted on in the next two months. (Does not include Measure AA which is a nine county regional measure.)

  1. May 03, 2016 Special Elections
  2. Menlo Park School District, Measure A is an extension of Measure C passed in 2010, $201.38/parcel tax per year to spend on teachers and educational programs. Begins in the 2017-2018 school year with no sunset clause.
  3. Brisbane School District, Measure B is to renew its current $112 parcel tax and increase it to not more than $131 from Jul 2016 to Jun 2022 to provide teachers/instructional aides for reading, music and art.
  4. Menlo Park School District, Measure C is a new parcel tax up to $468.60/year. This is to pay for increased teachers for increased enrollment. It does not have a sunset clause.
  5. On the Jun 07, 2016 there
  6. Pacifica School District is an extension of a five year education tax passed in 2011 that expires Jun 2017. It is $118 parcel tax. This is to pay for quality education to enhance math, science, reading/writing programs; attract/retain qualified teachers; support art/music program, computer/technology instruction, libraries and support struggling students. No funds for administrators.
  7. Jefferson Union High School District is a four year extension of four year education tax passed 2012 that expires 2016. This tax is a $60/year parcel tax for ten years. This is to enhance math, science, reading and writing skills; and to provide career training and college preparation, providing 21st century instruction; attracting and retaining qualified teachers.
  8. City of Half Moon Bay is a citizens generated initiative requiring the City Council to have a super majority (4 of 5 city council members) to introduce bond issues.
  9. County Service Area One is for extended fire and police protection. It is an extension of a parcel tax up to $65/year determined annually by a public hearing.
  10. Ravenswood City School District authorizes the district to issue and sell bonds to raise $26 million for school repairs and upgrades.  Best estimate it will cost $44 million to repay the bonds. It is a parcel tax not to exceed $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation of county tax rolls. It is to maintain warm, safe and dry schools; repair aging facilities, upgrade school safety; create centered-21st Century Classrooms; improve technology; computer and science labs; increase energy efficiency; and repair, construct, acquire, and retrofit facilities, sites and equipment.

These entities use part of their budget “tax payer money” to survey the public to find out how to best sell their program. Typically these are push polls. They ask a series of questions in a manner that make you “feel guilty” if you oppose the tax. For example, one does not want to be perceived as someone who does not want to invest in education or better fire and police protection or protect the environment.

The established entities of government have a distinct advantage because they have time, funding and a staff. Often these measures do not hit the radar screen until a few months before the election and it is too late to mount an organized opposition campaign.

There is no organized “watchdog” tax group specifically for San Mateo County. The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association is organized and primarily active in Santa Clara County. They have filed numerous opposition and rebuttal arguments but mostly without local input.

The challenges we have on dealing with tax and bond measures.

  1. Often the jurisdiction of the tax or bond measure is not very big, a city, school or special county district. In most cases the SMGOP Central Committee only has a couple of members that reside in that district. It makes it difficult for someone in Burlingame to take a position on something in Menlo Park.
  2. It is difficult to oppose a tax or bond introduced by the city, school or special county district. Using a football analogy they are spotted a 14 point lead before the game starts. Therefore we feel like we are defeated before we start.
  3. We do not like to be perceived as “anti-school, anti-children, anti-safety and protection, and anti-environment.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. That a nonpartisan taxpayers association be organized and chartered in San Mateo County.
  2. That subject matter experts be set up and trained for each jurisdiction to evaluate the execution and performance of each tax and bond measure.
  3. That the expiration dates of all local taxes and bonds be identified.
  4. That competency of all persons serving on the oversight committees be identified and rated.
  5. That the subject matter experts

Special note: I have already stated that I oppose parcel taxes because I believe they are a “back door” to raise money off properties without raising property taxes.

The information you have read above should help you to understand why I take this position; my concerns are especially for those who are on a fixed income and having trouble making ends meet, like seniors citizens. Again, this is why I am supporting Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) bill AB 1891 and I ask you to consider supporting this assembly bill.